It’s been a while since I have felt anything was worth writing about or sharing, and as the time went on it became easier to stop altogether.
One of my closest friends passed away unexpectedly early Wednesday morning. The grief and shock are two undercurrents of a strong sea that has been carrying me along and sometimes tossing me about since I heard.
I could try and try to write something that would do justice to Rebecca, and what she meant to me. What she means to me. (I’m still not ready to use the past tense here).
Though nothing would ever really communicate all of the things that I wanted to, I was given an opportunity to speak about her today at a memorial service. Fortunately for me, I had very little time to get out what I could. Some of you who knew her also and who were for various reasons unable to be present at the service today asked me to make available my remarks, which I am honored to do.
Friendship, I believe, is one of the truest and most profound ways that God is revealed to us and in us.
Friendships like the one I had with Rebecca, as I am sure all of you had with Rebecca, reveal the senseless generosity of God. While at any time, and certainly at a time like today it would be possible to get stuck in the sorrow, asking “why” and “for what reason” of her sudden loss I want to ask those same questions about her presence, a gift equally sudden and undeserved.
I couldn’t tell you how or when most of my friendships began. I can, however, tell you the moment I was first aware of Rebecca and knew she was someone I would like to know. It was a beautiful afternoon in that overlap of late summer and early fall nearly 10 years ago. It was mid-afternoon, and it was the first day of Church History 2. This class is over two hours long and is an opportunity to learn about all of the marvelous weirdos who played integral parts in our shared faith history. Knowing from having taken Church History 1 already that we were in for tales of blessings and beheadings, all in the name of the Lord, the mood was slightly somber. The roll had gone around and there was a moment of near silence before Dr. Hoyle got into the lecture. Before she could, it began:
If. You. Like. To. Talk. To. Tomatoes…
I, on the far right side of the room locate that this song is coming from the increasingly red faced woman at the back left handed side of the room, tearing through her bag.
Bob the Tomato continued on,
If. A. Squash. Can. Make. You. Smile…
The unexpected delight and levity of the moment made it impossible for me not to laugh. I did, loud and long. That was the first of many moments of my life where Rebecca brought unexpected joy. That day after class we walked out to the parking lot together. I knew that I had to get to know someone who liked the Veggie Tales so much that they made the theme song their ringtone. I was right— through the months and years that followed we formed a friendship as deep as it was unlikely.
Though very different people we had a bond of admiration and respect for the differences in the other. While neither of us changed our minds, both were changed for the better by knowing the other.
We had a lot of time together in classes after Church History 2. All week I have been thinking of the semesters of Old Testament where we engaged the writers and topics like loss, justice, sorrow and grief. How strange it is to have been instructed in these things with the person whose life will cause you to really wrestle them.
All week I have been feeling this profound loss. The person who was always my second if not my very first call when something alarming happened is the one whose death has shaken me.
I wanted, for the first time in a long time, to really reflect on the nature of God as I try to make sense of this. I pulled out my notes from Old Testament and just as quickly put them away again. Rebecca and I sat next to one another, and there are scribbles and doodles all over the margins.
Right now it hurts too much to look at. That is the reality of where I am at this moment. That will not always be. That will not be for long.
I have an awareness of what is lost because of my awareness of what I had; of what so many of us had. How lucky I am that I had such love that I feel such searing absence.
To know Rebecca was to be truly accepted; to be fully embraced and loved. Your triumphs became her triumphs; your sorrows her sorrows, the longings of your heart the longings of her heart.
True friendship is a revolutionary act. Christian friendship is more meaningful still.
While the world becomes increasingly isolated, frightening and individualistic, to have and be a true friend is to both accept and enact another possibility. It is to dare to create and experience what heaven might be like. It is to glimpse the world God intended while in this one.
As we were so deeply loved we are experiencing deep sorrow. Our friend is gone. To never risk being in this type of pain again is understandable. But having experienced the life changing kinship we have, we must remain open and try to be the friend Rebecca was to others.
What a remarkable person she was. What joy, what laughter she brought into so many lives.
How marvelous it is to be one of them.